HARRISONBURG — Another first week of school is in the books for Harrisonburg City Public Schools and Rockingham County Public Schools, and both are reporting smooth starts to the 2019-2020 school year.
Enrollment for Rockingham County on Friday was 11,430, which goes over the budgeted amount of 11,355. It’s better to under-budget for students than over-budget, as funding from the state is given on a per-pupil basis, and over-budgeting can lead to less funding than what will eventually be received, according to administrators.
“Overall, we have had an excellent first week of school,” said Doug Alderfer, assistant superintendent of leadership and academic support for Rockingham County Public Schools. “Students and teachers have all had great energy and are excited to be back.”
The potential challenges of starting a new school year typically revolve around logistics like bus routes and making sure students are properly registered, Alderfer explained. But for Rockingham County Schools, there have been very few issues in these areas. This year marked the second year that the school division has offered online registration to enroll students.
The system worked well with close to 100% of students being successfully registered using this system by the start of school.
“Regarding transportation, the first four days have gone well with only a few minor delays,” Alderfer said. “We are still reworking a few bus routes to alleviate some overcrowding but overall, the routes are running smoothly.”
Pat Lintner, chief academic officer for Harrisonburg City Schools agreed that the hiccups school divisions usually see are in the minor things such as fine-tuning bus routes and making sure buses are arriving on time.
This year was the earliest the buses have ever gotten out at the end of the day, however.
“It’s been a smooth week, there haven’t been any huge surprises,” Lintner said. “[Superintendent Michael Richards] was in the schools and said everyone had gotten down to work.”
As of this week, Harrisonburg City Schools has 200 more students enrolled than budgeted for, with 6,059 in attendance on Friday. That number will fluctuate some, and it won’t be until after Labor Day that the school division will have a real sense of steady enrollment.
With more students than anticipated, Lintner said it’s possible classes will be readjusted, which might mean more teachers. The division has already added two instructional assistants to meet the needs of special education students — and that wasn’t expected.
At the elementary level, classes are within their teacher to student ratio numbers and that additional teachers will not be necessary if those numbers hold steady. However, it will be at least another week until that can be determined, Lintner said.